Former Employee Now Supervises Me; Rules Commander Style

Question:

Several months ago, one of my former employees returned to our company as my immediate supervisor. It’s been hell ever since.

Prior to his return, I’d been respected and allowed to function semi-autonomously. I’d myself been a supervisor, overseeing one employee until he left, and management decided to shift the duties he’d handled to another department. I’d received excellent performance evaluations for my accomplishments. 

My former employee rules commander style and micro-manages me, sucking all the joy out of my work life. He treats me with contempt, criticizing my work and me personally at every opportunity.

It wears on me. I worry what he’s telling upper management about me and what this means to my future.

Things recently went from bad to worse. He placed me on a performance improvement plan and asked me to consider whether I am a good fit for my position. 

When I protested that I’d had three years of positive performance reviews, he said this was because no one had looked carefully at what I was doing.

I think the root cause is I threaten him; however, our senior manager considers him a “boy wonder.” What can I do?

Answer:

Some, facing the circumstances you report, vote with their feet and leave before their supervisor can shred their morale and potentially tarnish their reputation.

Alternatively, if you loved your job before your former employee returned, you may choose to fight what’s happening. Despite what your new supervisor said, an employee with three years of excellent performance evaluations has a track record that demands respect.

Before you decide to fight, you need to ask yourself tough questions and face hard truths.

What led your upper manager to bring back your former employee rather than promoting you?

Are your former employee’s allegations accurate? Have you been allowed to skate by with minimal performance under prior laissez-faire supervisors? 

If so, that time has ended, and you need to get with the program.

If, however, you accurately assess the situation as one in which a former employee guns for you because he’s threatened by you or for other reasons, visit either your HR officer or the manager above your supervisor and explain what is happening.

Bring copies of your performance reviews and clear, objective information concerning your recent achievements. Let them know he’s asked if you are a fit for position for which you’ve received prior excellent ratings.

They’ll likely look into the situation, and if they agree, they may instruct your supervisor to back off or potentially mediate between the two of you.

If something in your prior treatment of your former employee now leads him to gun for you, this may partially resolve the situation.

Additionally, your new supervisor appears to need training if he treats any employee, even a marginal performer, with contempt.  

Your “boy wonder” comment leads me to wonder if age-related prejudice could be part of the issue – toward you or from you. If senior management calls him a “boy wonder” and promoted him above you, do they see you as “toward the end of your career” and view your new supervisor as part of their team going into the future? If so, you may have legal recourse under age discrimination.

Alternatively, do you disparage him and resent his status over you? If so, you may need to consider whether he has abilities that equip him to handle situations you’ve not successfully managed. That may be why senior management brought him back and placed him over you.

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One thought on “Former Employee Now Supervises Me; Rules Commander Style

  1. Lynne–these are great tips on ways to try to work out the “boy wonder” commando-style new supervisor situation. And it’s always wise, as you counsel, to look inward and see if there’s any part of this that your behavior might have contributed to.

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